With Lieutenant Surge now in our rearview mirror, the time has come for the adventures of Fuzz and Block to lead us headlong into one of my least favorite places in the Kanto region: another friggin’ cave. Yes, in case you didn’t get tired of looking at rocks back on Mt. Moon, today’s chapter will give us an intimate look at Kanto’s very own Rock Tunnel. Before that, though, we get to explore a couple of routes that we had to skip over back then and add a few new Pokemon to the team.
The route back to Cerulean City from Vermillion is a bit of a trek, but it’s a rather uneventful one. You have to head through Diglett Cave on route eleven, an area that seems like it could be an annoying cave but in reality is just a diagonal line leading northwest from one set of stairs to another. We already got our Diglett Cave capture, Gaia the Diglett, so there’s really only one notable thing about this location: leaving it. When you get out of Diglett Cave you’ll find yourself on a previously-inaccessible part of route two. Head around to the back of the cave entrance and you can scoop up a set of great balls to put in your capture pouch. A quick jog south will give you a cut scene which teaches you Light Up, the secret technique that will allow you to explore Rock Tunnel to your heart’s content.
Once you have Light Up, your rival makes an appearance and offers to fast travel you to Cerulean City’s eastern outskirts so you can head right where you are supposed to go next. I took the offer and so Tackle dragged me instantly to the edge of town. The skinny tree here previously served as a roadblock, but having learned Chop Down on the SS Anne I was now able to head east onto route nine. For a moment I wondered whether I had a legal capture on route nine, and after a few minutes of reviewing my Pokemon box I learned that I would get to catch something here. Something you’ll have to decide for yourself on the route: it’s possible to see the tall grass here way before you can actually reach it to try and capture something. In my case, this caused me to “encounter” a female Nidoran that disappeared off of the map by the time I walked all the way around to reach the grass. Instead of looking for a second female Nidoran I made the executive decision to consider my first encounter to be the one that popped up when I could actually reach the grass, which ended up being a male Nidoran. I don’t think there’s a “right” answer here – it’s just important to stick with whichever approach you decide upon.
I caught Nidoran easily enough and named the little guy Imperator, a suitably imposing name in case I ever get to train him into a Nidoking. Other capture possibilities on this route include the Spearow/Fearow line as well as Rattata/Raticate. In all likelihood, you’ll already have both of those and so Nidoran will end up being the Pokemon you add to the team. Once your capturing is done, the rest of route nine isn’t particularly eventful. There are quite a few trainers in this area whose levels vary from 19-23, with the typical level being 21. On the dead end path at the south end of the route there are two hikers on either side, so be ready to deal with some rock types. One of the hikers as well as a camper have Pokemon who know the move Dig. Because Dig is a two-turn move, there’s a fun little trick you can attempt with it: switching in to a flying type Pokemon will allow you to completely avoid damage from the attack. Just be sure that if your opponent is also a rock type that their health is low enough for your flying type to quickly finish them off or you’ll have created a different problem for yourself. This strategy is more effective against non-rock types like Sandshrew or Diglett that still take normal damage from normal and flying moves. You also want to be careful not to implement this strategy if the opponent uses Stealth Rock first. Some of the Geodude here do know it and switching in a flying type when Stealth Rock is in play will deal 25% of their HP in damage.
When you reach the end of route nine you’ll step right onto route ten, which means a second opportunity for a new Pokemon! This area has a pretty similar pool of creatures available to capture, but there is one key difference: the water type Pokemon Krabby spawns here at a pretty high rate. Krabby is indeed the first Pokemon I encountered in the area, but I made a key mistake here. You see, for a long time my Switch dock has been out of commission due to not having a Nintendo-brand charger. Recently I got a proper charger and can use my dock again, so during this play session I made a point of playing on the big screen. Never play Let’s Go on the big screen. While handheld mode allows you to aim your Pokeballs with a combination of the control stick and gyro controls, docked mode requires you to play exclusively with motion controls. After a few cruddy throws Krabby decided it was done with me and skipped out, leading to my first missed capture of the Nuzlocke run. Luckily I have Lucy the Psyduck providing water type coverage already, but a backup water Pokemon would have been fantastic.
There are three trainer battles on this section of route ten, two optional, one not. The not optional battle is against a Team Rocket trainer with a Raticate. My Drowzee Sonny happened to be in the front of the line when Raticate showed its face, and as a precautionary measure I decided to withdraw him. “Just in case it has a dark-type move,” I thought, and sure enough as soon as I yanked Sonny out of there that Raticate let loose with a Crunch that probably would have ended Sonny’s career. It’s good to use your own Pokemon as a reference point for the kinds of moves that your opponent could have – I knew to watch out for Raticate thanks to my own Raticate Cheesethief already knowing Crunch.
One of the two optional battles here is against the route ten coach trainer. This lady is a tough nut to crack: she has two Pokemon, a level 24 Poliwhirl and a level 26 Primeape. The Poliwhirl is manageable enough, particularly if you have a grass type like Thorn the Weepinbell on your side. The Primeape, though – that sucker is scary. This Primeape runs Brick Break, a powerful fighting-type attack that shatters protective barriers like Reflect. Base power and STAB puts the move over 100 power, and even Sonny took heavy damage from this thing’s attacks. When I first switched in Sonny a critical hit did 40 damage out of 66 health, leaving Sonny at less than half. This seems like a disaster but it actually gave me some important information: the power of Primeape’s attack when it was a critical is something I would need to know in order for Sonny to survive the matchup.
Here’s how I handled the situation. Once I got Sonny healed up I gave him an X-Defense that I fortunately had in my inventory. This heavily reduced the damage from Brick Break allowing me to have openings to make attacks. However, I still made efforts to heal Sonny whenever his health dropped below 40. Why? Critical hits ignore stat boosts that otherwise reduce damage from attacks. The bonus from the X-Defense wouldn’t change the 40 damage that Sonny took from the critical hit, meaning that I always had to stay above 40 in order to make sure that a crit wouldn’t kill Sonny. And sure enough, that Primeape did get a second critical hit before the fight was over. If I hadn’t have had the opportunity to see how serious the critical damage was, or if I didn’t know that X-Defense was useless against crits, I might have lost my psychic type. Luckily, Sonny managed to take out Primeape and I was rewarded with $2,600, the Brick Break TM, and an evolution!
After a quick rest at the Pokemon Center on route ten, I headed into Rock Tunnel. This is a cave system with two floors which you’ll move between multiple times as you head from one side of the tunnel to the other. There are lots of Pokemon in this area, some you’ve likely seen on other routes like Geodude/Graveler, Onix, and Zubat/Golbat, but also some that you haven’t encountered before like Rhyhorn, Machop, Cubone, and even the elusive Kangaskhan. Kangaskhan you’ll only have a chance to encounter if you built up a capture combo on route ten, but even then you are much more likely to encounter something else first. I was hoping for Machop here but instead I ended up with the glitter of Pokemon games, Zubat. (If @PunchlinesX was here, he would explain that this is funny because glitter has a reputation for getting everywhere and being impossible to get rid of). In defense of Zubat, Golbat really is a solid Pokemon and an awesome counter against fighting types, but in my case I got a terrible nature that reduces Zubat’s essential attack stat. I shoved Strahd into the box and took some time to grind levels.
Knowing what levels to maintain throughout Pokemon Let’s Go is somewhat tricky. At the “right” levels you’ll often feel overpowered against most normal trainers but then just barely be even with gym leaders and coach trainers. After my close encounter with Primeape I decided to do enough grinding to get my group’s average level to 30 (for reference, four of my Pokemon were level 26 and the other two were 28). In Rock Tunnel, your best bet for catch combos is probably Graveller. Graveller has a relatively low catch difficulty compared to other evolved Pokemon that appear here, but still gives a good amount of experience. It also isn’t too rare so you can find a decent number of them quickly when hunting and can stumble upon them during your normal exploration of the cave. Once my weaker Pokemon were at 29 and my stronger ones were at 31, I started exploring the tunnel.
As you explore rock tunnel, note that most of the trainers in this area have Pokemon anywhere from level 22-25, with the most typical level being 23. There are a large number of hikers which means you’ll be dealing a lot with rock types and also encounter some fighting types from time to time. Fighting types also appear with black belts. The toughest trainers in this area are ace trainers, who have Pokemon around level 25 that are of different types than what most of the trainers have. As long as you’ve got your own Pokemon at least even with these trainers, you shouldn’t have any trouble with the battles.
As much of a pain as rock tunnel is navigation-wise, it really isn’t particularly challenging of an area to navigate. It’s possible that I should have waited until after rock tunnel to get my grinding done, but I won’t know until I get to the next area whether or not shooting for level 30 was a realistic amount of grinding. For now, though, I’m going to wrap up this chapter. Fuzz and Block will be back next week at the same time to continue their adventure through the world of Kanto, and there are plenty of shenanigans to be enjoyed next time as we reach Lavender Town!